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Nutrition Tips for Young Athletes

All kids need a healthy diet, but young athletes have special nutritional needs, says Lauren Antonucci, a New York City registered dietician. Here, Antonucci explains what to give kids to eat and drink during and after games and practices so they stay healthy and strong.

Feed them lots of salty snacks: When athletes sweat, they lose salt from their body. If they lose too much, they can get cramps and feel tired and drained, says Antonucci. Some perfect snacks: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix, dried fruit, or granola bars, because each has some salt and the carbs and proteins that kids need for energy, she says. For those with peanut allergies, make a trail mix of dried cereal and raisins.

Keep them hydrated: "Kids who are playing sports need six ounces of fluid every 15 minutes," Antonucci says. Water is best, but since studies show that when drinking water many kids will down much less than what they need, Antonucci also recommends sports drinks, like Gatorade, or diluted juice. "If there is a little sugar in the drink, kids will tend to have more," Antonucci says.

Leave the candy at home: "It's not a good idea to reward kids with treats," Antonucci says. If other parents insist on bringing sweet treats, meet with the parents as a group and come up with a list of acceptable snacks, like low-fat yogurt, string cheese, or frozen bananas (hold the chocolate).